As details emerge about the nearly $1 trillion infrastructure agreement reached Wednesday in the Senate, senior living advocates are cautiously optimistic that the package payment sources do not include Provider Relief Funds.
But they intend to remain vigilant.
A summary of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act listed “$205 billion from repurposing of certain unused COVID relief dollars” under the new spending “pay-fors.” But senior living associations said they received assurances from Senate negotiators that monies in the Provider Relief Fund were protected and off the table.
“Argentum has received confirmation from key Senate negotiators that the Provider Relief Fund is protected, but because language is still being drafted at this time, and out of an abundance of caution, we are remaining vigilant until we are able to view the final pay-for language,” an Argentum spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living.
A LeadingAge spokesperson shared a similar sentiment.
Argentum reported during a membership briefing on Wednesday that it had received “intelligence” that the bulk of the remaining dollars in the Provider Relief Fund would not be used to pay for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, as had been rumored.
In a Thursday email to its members, the American Seniors Housing Association said it had learned that recommendations to repurpose Provider Relief Fund monies to pay for the infrastructure package had been “taken off the table, barring any last-minute changes.”
ASHA President David Schless indicated that the association has “aggressively lobbied” the Senate through meetings and grassroots advocacy to “underscore the disastrous impact this would have on senior living and their ability to care for residents and seniors, especially as the spread of the delta variant is increasing.”
Schless said that efforts to raid the dollars left in the Provider Relief Fund to pay for the infrastructure package were “ill conceived,” as many senior living operators have yet to receive meaningful levels of financial relief. Operators have been awaiting a Phase 4 allocation, reportedly under review by the Office of Management and Budget with an expected mid-August announcement, as well as payments for outstanding Phase 3 applications since late 2020.
A spokesperson for the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living said that the groups appreciated Senate and administration leaders recognizing the importance of protecting the Provider Relief Fund. But AHCA / NCAL pointed out the pay-for does include an extension of Medicare sequestration.
“As the bill makes its way through Congress, we continue to implore lawmakers that healthcare providers should not foot the bill for America’s infrastructure projects, and that Medicare should be protected,” the AHCA / NCAL spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Additionally, we urge [the Department of Health and Human Services] to swiftly deliver the remaining Provider Relief Funds to help support our healthcare heroes as they battle a once again emerging COVID threat.”
A vote on the physical infrastructure bill is the first hurdle to paving the way for a broader $3.5 trillion human infrastructure package to invest in housing, home- and community-based services expansion, healthcare, childcare and climate change improvements.